Could you pass a driver’s test today?
The average Canadian driver would most certainly fail to qualify on a modern-day driving road test without considerable preparation.
Luckily, driving re-tests are regularly perpetrated upon the average 18-year-old, or conversely, the 81-year-old. The vast majority of drivers will never be retested for about 65 years from the date their original driver’s licence was issued.
There are exceptions to the re-test timeline, but they are few and far between. Usually, a bad driving record involving multiple blameable crashes, or traffic tickets resulting in a long driving suspension, may justify a driver’s retest. This is a rare occurrence.
What if there was a policy change that would necessitate a driving test for those drivers in the high blameable-crash-risk age groups? These age groups do not include the 30-to 60year-old drivers, who are deemed to be the safest on our highways and byways. Crash rates and fatalities are highest in the 16 to 30 age group, followed by the over-60 age group. Men are much more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than women.
How do other countries motivate drivers to be better behind the wheel? Countries such as Britain, Germany, Japan and Australia have the most difficult driving tests on the planet. Because of this simple fact, there is an amazing pride in the driving task by licenceholders in those countries.
They start driving with a much higher skill and safety level than we do in Canada.
We live in a country where there are fewer vehicles per square kilometre than anywhere in the western world.
Because we have more space in which to manoeuvre our cars and trucks, Canadians are known to be sloppy drivers.
Roads in North America are wide and forgiving for drivers. Wide shoulders and huge medians provide a comfort zone for the travelling public. Of course, there are exceptions to this broad generalization, from the Malahat to the narrow streets of Quebec City.
These types of rural and urban areas respectively are more the exception than the rule. Terrain is not the only factor that makes Canadian drivers less than skilful and safe.
The poor performance of Canadian drivers includes the flaunting of the most elementary rules of driving.
The last time one of my driving theory classes for new drivers did a stop-sign survey, it took 43 cars at a four-way stop intersection before the students witnessed a legal stop. These driver candidates were not only shocked but offended by what they observed.
Another common travesty: The majority of drivers did not turn into the most immediate driving lane upon the completion of a left or right turn, but instead drifted to an adjacent lane. Both of these infractions are driving offences. They are seldom enforced.
What if they were zealously enforced? Would driving behaviours change? You bet they would.
Successful seatbelt and drinking-driving legislation with well-defined penalties have proved the point.
New drivers being tested are asked to demonstrate driving proficiency at speeds that are never meant to exceed 50 kilometres per hour.
Upon passing the elementary driving test, they are immediately given the privilege of driving the major freeways in winter at speeds exceeding 100 km/h.
What if the initial driving test included all or at least most of the tasks a driver would face on both city streets and higher-speed freeways?
Would we be better for it? I think so.
Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teachers and the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and the Interior of B.C.
Photograph by: Mark van Manen, PNG